The Perfect Brother

From the day he drew his first breath, some _____( add your own number, Rex) years ago, he was the Prince of Greenwood Center in my mother’s eyes. I say this , not as his only sister, but it was a well known fact that he also “took after” her side of the family with his darker looks and he had the “look”. You know, the “look” that spells innocent in capital letters? He had it. It came with him; his own personal birthright.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that not only did I not look like my mother’s side of the family with the blonde hair, blue eyes and don’t give a crumb attitude so imbedded in the Martin side, but that I lacked an innocent look. I looked guilty when I was completely innocent…my own personal birthright.

I remember distinctly the brawl in which Rex and I were engaged when mother emerged on the scene in the little room. At the time I may ( or may not have had) a broom in my hand. I admit to nothing. The end result was the smashing of a very valuable lamp chimney on whose light we depended the minute the sun went down. I swear my mother did not, did not even look in his direction. She took one look at the broom, at me, pointed at the open door and said and I quote after sixy some odd years, “Young lady ( she always called me that when she was furious and just short of putting me up for adoption) you get out in the neighborhood, see who has a spare chimney and don’t come home without one.” I went to the door, turned and yelled my most famous chant of the times, “HE started it”. Two of her steps in my direction and I hit the dirt with feet flying. We had light that night so apparently I was successful…the rest of the scenario blurs in my mind.

Another uppermost in my mind was the famous door yard fight where we had flung everything possible at each other until we came to our foot wear. It was in the middle of this melee of throwing shoes at each other when mother came out the front door and yelled, “What are you doing?” Strange in looking back, Rex did not move. I ran like the wind for the main road and in the breeze behind me was mother’s voice echoing, “you have to come home some time, young lady.” (Notice the ‘young lady’ title again). I did go home but I think I waited until we had company because she did not want to show her wrath ( i.e. dirty laundry) in public.

As we grew older and in high school, his friends were my “buddies” too. His best friend was my favorite buddy, but there came a time when that friendship was almost severed.  Seems there was a Sadie Hawkins Dance, and as you know, the girls have to ask the boys. No way did I have any interest in any boy there nor did I want to even attempt to dress up and attend. OK, so his pleading look ( another birthright) got to me when he said his buddy wanted to go but would only go with me. Long story short. I asked, we went, the buddy forgot to put gas in the car at Phon Brown’s filling station and we ran out just about where the road to Johnny’s Bridge is today on Rt. 26. Oh, no, the buddy said. Well, another so called buddy came along, and off to the nearest gas selling establishment they went and returned with a red five gallon can of the needed fuel to take us to this dreaded event.  The dance was ok..we might have taken six steps around the floor and talked with everyone else we knew that night…and then on the way home..oh, yes, everyone was gathering at a local hang out by a pond. Actually that is what we did back then..just hung out, talked, joked, some sneaked a beer and home we went. For some reason, some guy made a remark in my direction that the “good” buddy did not like and he lashed out with his fist, missed the guy completely and drove his hand into a birch tree, barking up every knuckle on that hand. The ride home was interesting, interspersed with whimpers from behind the wheel. That is why I had no interest in asking any boy to any dance. Period.

In spite of my lapses in judgement and agreeing to incidents like the one described above, Rex rescued me a few times from a few mis-judgments on my part. I dated one guy and at the end of that very long, miserable evening swore I would never go near him again. One Sunday afternoon, he drove in our yard in his very new , low slung 1950’s wide-finned car and inquired about me. Upon seeing the grill of the car, I slung my body to the stairs leading to the attic screaming for Rex to get rid of the guy. I was not an eye witness. It isn’t easy to see when one is under a bed behind two cardboard boxes and a blanket over one’s eyes…however, it was told that Rex wandered casually up to the car, the guy rolled his window down, Rex leaned in, put one finger under the guy’s nose and told him to pull a “u-ee”, get out of the yard and he never wanted to see him near his sister again. The guy blinked, did indeed pull the “u-ee” and I never had to see him again. For that time, I thank my brother.

The last I knew, Rex had forgiven me for putting our one baseball bat on Dad’s sawhorse and using the buck saw on it. It was my turn to bat and that is what he got for being selfish and not giving me an extra turn. That is probably the only time I was to blame for any incidents we may have engaged in during our growing up years.

Then high school graduation came. Rex left and went to Korea. Boy , did I hate to admit I missed him. I was married and to this day I remember his coming through the door at the farm, seeing Debra Jo, a few months old lying on the couch, crossing the kitchen and saying, “Hey, this has to be my niece”….and for a few seconds there all my cranky feelings of his being Ma’s pet went right out the window.

Next month, another birthday, Rex. We always knew we’d make it, didn’t we…shoe throwing and all!

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More Thoughts flutter by

It is on those nights when sleep eludes and my mind is like a hamster on his wheel that I let it go up and down the “tarred” road of the little hamlet where I grew up. Perhaps it is because I know, in time, I will fall asleep in the midst of an old memory.

I start my journey at Dan Cole’s farm which, from my very first memory, I identified as the mile marker from our home. If you walked to Dan Cole’s, you had walked a whole mile.. a tremendous feat for little feet! It was essential for giving directions in the summer to those”out-of-staters” trying to find this and that. ‘Oh you go to Dan Cole’s farm up the road about a mile..white building, turn right and go up over Rowe Hill’ was a phrase repeated incessently most summers.

Then the Case cottage with its annual picnic for all the Greenwood Center neighbors, complete with entertainment from the Cole family. Charlotte and Lillian singing “Wintertime in Maine” with Irving in the background playing guitar. The rest of us milled around the food table and ate as though we hadn’t eaten in a fortnight.

Below I see Stan and Flossie Seames’s little green house on the knoll. Now there was the finest couple ever. One of my first baby sitting jobs was caring for Raymond and Evvie , then six and four years old. They sent word home by my parents that they needed someone for the summer; pay was $12 a week, was I available. Well, just so happened I was and one of the best memories ever in my junk drawer. Each morning Evvie had her hair curled like Shirley Temple. She sat still as a mouse while I wound each curl around the handle of the comb. I hate to admit it, for fear Raymond might get a swelled head, but those two were the best kids I ever sat with in my short baby sitting career.

However there WAS one fly in the ointment. Stan had a tub in the back room and the first day, asked if I minded taking the paddle near by and stirring the contents twice a day. That was no problem. The problem arose when each of my little ones wanted to lick the paddle after the stir. We finally worked it out that one licked in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Compare that to today’s standards and I would be sitting in a jail cell and they would be ruined for life. Traumatized, I am sure. It was harmless and that was the extent of any arguements the entire summer.

One day, I became very bold, found a recipe and decided to make Flossie a chocolate cake. I don’t know why, except at home I was forbidden to get into the ingredients for fear of failure. I remember trembling a bit when she and Stan came home from work and showing her the cake( actually a very good looking one)…well she was so pleased one would have thought I’d given her a million dollars and she couldn’t stop telling me how much that helped her. Music to my 16 year old ears! Maybe that made up for the time I was preparing lunch for the kids and took a can of spaghetti-os from the cupboard which had been laid aside for that meal. Innocent about all foods and anything to do with it, I put the can opener in the top, took one spin with the hand and it exploded. We had spaghettio’s everywhere..even the ceiling. It was a long afternoon of cleaning.

Now you can see why I have such memories in many of the houses in our hamlets. That was the year the hurricane came through. The kids were having a nap and I noticed bottles flying over the porch. Soon Stan and Flossie arrived, followed by my parents to take me home. I stood in our living room and watched the trees bend almost to the ground. The first hurricane I remember in the summer of 1954.

So I leave the Seames and go to the brown house where my great Uncle Elmer Cole  lived . I see in the entry way his assortment of cough drops and other necessities that the neighbors drop in to buy and chat. I only have to say, “Hello I am Ethel’s daughter” and a huge smile appears and he takes my nickel and hands me Smith Brothers cough drops.

Laura Seames lived in the white house and such a lady. She bought the Grit from me and when I was in contention for Carnival Queen, bought a ticket to “help me out”…such a lady.

Of course there was the Cole farm with its big truck, big sand pit and they were rich because they had a telephone! One highlight from that family was the day I went on an unscheduled ride. I was practically on my own turf walking nonchantly along when Elwin came down the “flat”riding his new bike. I admired it and told him I had never ridden a bike. Being the gentleman he was( or maybe I roughed  him up a bit) I was soon on the bike seat. Elwin was running aside of me yelling” keep pedaling, slow down” which, to me, meant two different things. Then the yelling went to “stop” and I had no clue. Long story short…I arrived at the end of our drive way, hit the mail box went over the handlebars, landed in the dirt. By the time I picked myself up, Elwin and his bike were headed up the “flat” toward home.

In this time period, my Uncle Glenn and family had moved and a new family came to live next door. I remembered all the plays that my cousins Louise and Carmen and I put together using their picnic table for the stage. The Center was empty after they moved and the sign with the big bear advertising my Uncle’s taxidermy business was gone.

So many memories flitting and fluttering about in my midnight mind. I am now at our own little house in the woods…..think I will wait for another sleepless night to continue the journey.

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Junk Drawer in my Mind

That’s what it is, you know. That little drawer you pull out or sometimes it just slips out for no reason at all …that drawer full of miscellany gathered through the years. There’s absolutely no reason why some of that data is saved and probably we aren’t aware it is saved until a smell, a song or something from the past pulls the knob and out slides the drawer.

Why would I remember some of the junk that rattles in my brain. So clearly I remember helping Ma hang clothes and when we were finished, she leaned down, picked a small white plant and asked if I knew what it was. Well, without waiting for me to answer, she told me it was Indian tobacco and proceeded to break off the head of it and chew it. Not to be outdone in any way, I followed suit and proceeded to pass the rest of the day by chewing and spitting out some sort of brown liquid and thought I was pretty smart for my nine years of age. Ma did not take much time during her busy hours for fun and laughter, leaving that up to my Dad who excelled at it, but the Indian tobacco day lives in my mind.

I seemed to be the “achy” kid. It was a known fact that my left ear could not go a day without it rattling the side of my head. In fact, at one time during a particularly horrid winter, a friend of my mother’s at the mill, sent a hot water bottle to school by her son during the lunch hour. I remember laying my head on the hot water bottle during the afternoon and how grateful I was for the heat. Dad had his own cure for that at home. In the evening, he lit a cigarette, brushed my hair to one side, and blew the smoke in my ear and immediately pushed some cotton in. Whether it was because he took the time to pay attention to my ear or whether the warm smoke really helped, I have no idea. My mother turned both thumbs down when he announced that some friends had another “cure” back in the “old country”. They used a teaspoon of urine in the ear and that cured all. For some reason, whatever Ma told Dad about that suggestion never made it to my junk drawer.

I always had one tooth that ached. Like other kids at the time, I had made a trip to Dr. Brown in Bethel, had the gas, teeth pulled etc but that one tooth would not let me rest. Ma always went to the cupboard, pulled down a can of McCormick’s cloves and told me to put a dab on my finger..on to the tooth and it would calm it. It did and I swear I used more cloves in my mouth than she did in her cooking. I never tried that on my own four kids though.  Apparently the junk drawer did not have time to open and hand me any of this information.

A lot of useless (?) information floats around in my brain. I remember Dad telling me never to fish for yellow perch in August because they were always wormy that month. I passed that on to my oldest son. I hope Dad knew what he was talking about. Most of any information I have that I probably will never use again was given me by Dad. Like, whatever you do, Muff, don’t buy a Dodge Dart. Those buttons are useless and wish I had never bought it. I think the buttons were the gears if I remember correctly…I had long been married and had no intentions of buying a Dodge Dart…and on another occasion..don’t buy a damn Chevvy. The key broke off in the door and I can’t get it out.  A lot of information on automobiles, especially if he was in frantic mode time.

Half the junk drawer is loaded with tips on hunting and guns, both of which I cared nothing about and the farther I got from a gun, the better. I guess both Ma and Dad felt that all the kids should know how to handle a gun properly and then if we wanted to use one, well we were set for life. 

I guess the junk drawer kind of skittled out this morning as I went out to water my one tomato plant on the deck. Water them in the morning, Ma always said, of her flowers and plants. You  burn their feet if you wait til noon.

OK Ma, that one stuck with me and I even passed it on to a friend the other day. I am sure the junk drawer will come out again on occasion when needed.

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Ring the bell; Salute the Flag!

Graduation 20030036Oh such memories will arise when former students of the Locke Mills school get together this summer. The picture is an updated one; there was no ramp to the left, no fancy entrance but it was our school.

Some things just stick in your mind and will never leave. After vacations and the beginning of the new school year, I looked forward to my first step inside the building. I loved the smell of the freshly oiled floors. At least I think they were freshly oiled. The smell was unique and I clung to it all day long.

The whirr of the pencil sharpener and the very delicate removal of the filled belly of said instrument was always a sight to behold. Some teachers could empty without one bit of wood shaving hitting the floor while others produced a rain storm. It didn’t take much to swing our heads from serious studying to the mundane emptying of the pencil sharpener.

Teeter boards and swings were the source of entertainment and if I remember, we all took turns without any blood being shed. Today, the topic of bullying is prevalent in most schools. I try and I try to remember if there were any bullying in our little school. It was a different generation and I believe because the majority of students had one thing in common, it united us in a way. Most parents worked in the mill and so it can be said that most were dressed the same way, no family stood out as being “better off” than another. In my class there was a boy we always called “Rim Head”. I don’t know why and I don’t know if he had been called that since birth, but few knew his real name and when we were at recess, the name Rim Head could be heard echoing up over the hill. No one  considered that bullying as he did not care what he was called, obviously. We had our “Baldie” and again, the boy had a full head of hair so I have no clue why he was called that name. I cannot recall anyone calling another fat or stinky or any degrading name, though. I hope my memory is accurate.

Most families had another thing in common. We bought groceries “on the cuff” at Arthur Vallee or Cass Howe’s( later to be Hank Leach’s) stores. Everyone stopped by on pay day and gave what they could toward their bill and checked to make sure it wasn’t  too high. If it was getting out of hand, some how Mr. Vallee would drop a subtle hint and the customer would fork over a bit more on the tab.

I rode to school in a van with two wooden boards on each side in back to make two benches for the students. Cass Howe positioned himself behind the wheel, cigar in hand and we were off! There was an occasional “stuck in the mud”incident and that would be reported with “mud vacation” following closely behind the announcement.

Bus kids brought their lunches in anything that would hold together. We had brown bags and sometimes Ma found lard buckets and later on, buckets in which peanut butter was sold. Oh, that peanut butter was awful, with oil swimming on top…but the pail made it all worth while. It was something like Ma buying laundry detergent which would barely made suds, because she needed the towel inside. Another shining example was the cereal that none of us liked because there was a glass tumbler or dish inside. It was the two for one days back in the Forties and Fifties and little was thrown away.

On the subject of throwing away, very little crumbs of our lunches were ever wasted. As soon as we settled ourselves on the ground, the town-owned mutt ( named Sandy) came and made the rounds to see what smelled the best and who was going to be the generous one of the day. Sandy grew fat and sassy and never failed to show up at the noon feeding. I have no idea where he went in the winter when we were inside the prison against the cold. Probably he had a perfectly good , warm home with plenty of good feed but just liked to socialize in the summer.

What joy in simple tasks–being asked to ring the bell to bring the students. Being asked to assist someone in the raising of the flag outside each morning. Every morning began with the Pledge of Allegiance and our voices became a sea of monotone as the week went on and almost took on a sing-song effect, hand over heart, gazing at the little flag in the corner of the room.

Three rooms; three teachers. So much education came out of that little school. A picture still in my mind of a teacher making peanut butter and crackers when the school boys couldn’t catch up with the speed away sled carrying the kettle of soup one winter day.  The teacher who quietly gave a pair of mittens to a little girl because her hands were cold and almost deep red in color. 

It was a different time; somehow difficult to explain in today’s world. Suffice it to say, we who were fortunate enough to go to the three room school house had something very special…and some very special memories for a lifetime.

July: Eating, Drinking, Fishing

July was unlike other summer months in Greenwood Center. The hot, sultry days made for long waits at the end of the driveway as Ace, the milkman , made his way to all the summer camps. We waited in the hot summer sun, clean milk bottle in hand, ready to exchange it for an ice cold bottle of chocolate or strawberry milk. What a delight to see the bottle with its tears in the moisture just waiting for us to run to the kitchen table, grab the enamel cups and divide up the booty. Was there ever such a delicious treat?? If a local farmer gave us milk, it went to my father who had ulcers and his diet was crackers and milk each evening before bedtime. He had first dibs on the milk and that was as it should be because he was sick and had to work. But, oh, the treat three times a week when Ace came in the milk truck. Ma gave us the change we needed to go with the empty clean bottle and sometimes we waited an hour to make sure we did not miss him. What dirty little urchins we must have looked to him, but he always smiled and was so nice.

The fourth of July was so special as my oldest brother, Tink, waited for his fireworks to come into the railroad station in Lockes Mills. Every day he checked and we waited to hear if the box had arrived from Ohio, that magic place somewhere in the United States that had all the fireworks for people like us! Tink gave Curt and me some sparklers which Ma allowed us to use. He bought roman candles so that Gram Martin could sit on her porch and watch the beautiful colors as he set them off over Twitchell Pond. He seldom bought too many of the really noisy ones as the color was minimal and the noise was enough to wake the dead ( or so my Grampa Martin said…).  Sometimes we had little red rolls of caps and if there was no cap gun available, a rock would do to make them “go off”!

That was also the day of the additional treat of the summer. Watermelon..spitting seeds and all the contests that went with that. The juices ran down our chins and we just did not care except Ma referred to it as a “sticky mess” by the time we were through. We sat outside and just went back and forth on that watermelon slice like a beaver on a log. What a treat!!

Ma sometimes borrowed Uncle Louie’s rowboat and took us to Nick’s Point across the pond for a picnic of sandwiches and kool-aid. There were usually ripe blueberries, so we had a picking good time along with the boat ride. It was fun to see the houses get smaller and smaller as she rowed us across Twitchell Pond. After our picnic, we sat on the rocks for awhile, listened to the ledge hawks scream and then back across the pond for another  year.

During the hot weather, Gram churned her butter on the front porch, hoping for a breeze off the pond. I loved to watch her churn and then dig out her little mold with the pretty leaf on it to make the squares of butter. Only once did I drink her buttermilk. Oh, it was such a hot day and the buttermilk was so ice cold and tasted so good. Two hours later, my body was bent in a comma-shape and my mother stood over me with threats of “if you ever touch that stuff again, I will know for sure you are out of your mind. No wonder you’re sick, drinking that stuff…” That is all I remember about the lecture because I was too busy being sick…well it tasted good going down but I remembered to politely refuse the next time Gram offered some.

Gram had a little beach for the family to use, but in order to get to it, one had to run across a field. I say run, because that is exactly what I did after someone announced there was a huge milk adder snake living in that field. Swimming was never the same after that. I breathed a sigh of relief upon getting to the beach without seeing the snake and the same when I reached the tarred road on the way out. I still wonder if that was a story made up by one of my brothers just to make me run every time…well it worked for about five years!!

Soon there were people from Greenwood City who learned about the tiny swimming hole and we had to look to see if there was a car parked by the field before we could go. Now that made for some cranky kids. After all, it was our Grandmother’s beach and some strangers were there and not room for us?? How fair was that?? Oh how unjust the entire situation was when we could not use the beach the minute we wanted.

Of course, summer meant fishing to me. There is one incident that still stands out in my mind. I knew bass were not to be caught and kept before June 1st..I believe that was the date. One day I was on Mina’s wharf and my line tugged clear to the bottom.  I thought there was a whale on there and so I eased the little alder pole slowly here and there and soon ..plop! ..on the wharf was this big bass. I knew I had to throw it back. On the other hand I could see it in my mother’s fry pan covered with corn meal and frying up golden and crisp. She would be proud of me to think I caught a fish that big..well it was almost a whole meal! Back then, game wardens were more to be feared than State Police. I held my breath, dropped the pole, grabbed the bass and ran for the house. The minute I got to the house, I went to the cleaning rock where Dad had given me lessons in cleaning fish, and within seconds, it seemed, no one could identify that fish as a bass.

Later, I retrieved the alder pole and waited for the folks to come home from work. Dad was the first to see the cleaned fish laying in the cake pan. “What do we have here?” he asked. “I caught a fish,” and that was where I left it. “Looks to me like a bass”. Well I couldn’t lie to him. The man knew his fish, cleaned or otherwise. “Yes.” “Well, Muff, little early in the season isn’t it?” “yes” was all I could muster out of my mouth. “Ethel, get the frying pan hot,” Dad yelled. That was the end of the fish situation.

Now you might be saying, that’s no way to bring up a kid. You have to teach them right from wrong. Dad knew I knew. He knew I worried all afternoon what he was going to say. He figured I had punished myself. Besides, there was nothing he liked better than crisp fried bass.

I miss July in Greenwood Center, Maine.

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The Tomboy

18543_1252857814166_5455564_nI was a tomboy growing up in Greenwood Center. I didn’t care if my hair was combed, cut even or even if I had hair, but I wanted the center of my baseball glove to be pounded down so that when a line drive came my way it plopped in there and stayed there. I didn’t care if my jeans were ragged or if my shirt were tucked in, as long as my alder fish pole leaned against the side of the house waiting for me to grab and head for Wagner’s rock. Pole in one hand and a Maxwell House coffee tin in the other and I was a happy camper.

You can imagine what my poor mother endured with her only daughter. I took no interest in any of the pursuits she offered. I couldn’t sit still long enough to learn how to thread a needle in her treadle machine and she finally told me to forget about learning to cook since she had no ingredients to waste. In other words, she gave up. Let her only daughter be her fourth son, it didn’t matter any more!!

Truth is, I took an interest, just not enough to want to learn how to do these things.  I joined the local 4-H club ( with a little prodding from Ma) and attended two meetings in town. We learned how to set a table correctly. Now this was no use to me…or at least not at that time. There were six people in our house with six of each utensil.Simple. We learned to fold napkins. Very pretty, except we didn’t use napkins. Maybe paper towels and surely my youngest brother used his shirt sleeve but cloth napkins?  I could see Ma washing them on the scrub board each Saturday and delicately pinning those to the line between the two trees out back. She would be more than pleased to add those to the ever multiplying pile of clothes.

The second meeting was not as boring, but I had already decided it would be the final one. We were going to make mayonnaise. I could go to Vallee’s store and buy a jar and instead  I had to learn to mix milk, eggs and who knows what . See? There was no logic whatsoever. Suffice it to say, my results were a cross between wallpaper paste and pancake batter. I never went back.

Now you’re thinking I was incorrigible and just did not want to learn. Not true. I sat in one of our high back kitchen chairs near the oven and watched as Ma put together her Finnan Haddie..or at least that is what she called it. I took it all in..the fish, the cream sauce, the butter, and the aroma and before it was cooked and ready to eat, I participated in drool. I just loved it and knew exactly how to make it.  The answer? Give me something I liked and I could do it. Don’t put me in competition with Hellman’s Mayo.Hellman’s is rolling on the floor laughing and I am busy counting the minutes of my wasted time.

Oh those high back kitchen chairs I just mentioned? I remember the day that Ma nagged Dad, saying it was time we had something decent to sit in..the time had come. I cannot remember the vehicle or if all of us piled in, but I would not have missed it for the world. Over Rowe Hill we went, and up Old County Road to a gentleman’s house or store(?) for chairs. His last name was McDaniels because Dad sang his name all the way, irritating Ma no end. We piled chairs in the back seat, trunk and tied some on top and headed for home. You know, when Ma moved out of the house in Greenwood, in her mid eighties, there was still at least one of those high back chairs sitting in the corner.

But back to being a tomboy. How I loved baseball!  The “flat” was the place to be most evenings when some came from Lockes Mills and we chose up teams. I have no idea why I remember this particular play, except being the only girl on the field, I must have been exceedingly proud of myself. I was playing second base, with a runner on first. The batter hit a line drive, I jumped and got it in the webbing of the glove, came down, and threw it to first for the double play. Maybe I remember because the runner was so angry and humiliated that a “girl” doubled him up.

You know, I may be wrong….but an athletic play like that sure lives in the memory a long time after you fail at making mayonnaise or trying to thread a needle.

My poor Ma lived to see me cook for four hungry kids and keep them nourished to the point where they were seldom sitting in one place for long; she saw me make little flannel shirts for my three sons on my own treadle machine. She knew all I needed was to sit by myself and figure it out.

But I still like the double play on the “flat” a lot better.

The Mighty Lady Slipper

I loved spring in Greenwood Center, Maine. The winds had left with their icy whips and the ground was bare…oh, for it to be warm again to feel the grass between my toes. But for right now, there were puddles of mud, not unlike chocolate pudding, that I jumped over or around  to protect the once a year purchase of school shoes.

There was an aroma in the air…so hard to describe, but Ma had taught me how to tell if it was going to rain. “You can smell it coming,” she told me over and over. “Just stick your nose up in the air and you can smell a soft, sweet tinge to the air.” Well, you know, at first I didn’t believe her, but as I grew older, I came to realize she was right and before long, I could see the rain drops hit the far side of Twitchell Pond and come closer and closer until it hit our front yard and we all ran inside….well, that is, unless it was a really hot day and then we might let a few of those rain drops cool us off!

Ma was of Native American heritage and to this day I am not sure how much and all the details but she was passionate about flowers and all that went with the earth. One of the very first things I remember her saying was, “Don’t pick the lady slippers.” “If you see a yellow lady slipper, they are very rare. Walk way around it.” Well, every time I picked up my alder fishing pole to  go down behind Wagner’s camp, she picked it right up on her radar. “Don’t you go picking those lady slippers, now.” I would no more thought of picking a lady slipper than I would have robbed a bank. That has stayed with me to this day.

Trilliums were fair game and the white with the blood red centers were abundant on the path to my cousins’ home. I often picked a bouquet and Ma would put them in a jam jar on the kitchen table. However, there was one bouquet she did not appreciate. It seems it was my turn to wipe the dishes and being me, I managed to disappear. Ma was not amused and I knew it…it was in the air. I went up the path and there, amongst the white trilliums, were loads of wine colored trilliums. I picked the biggest bouquet in the hopes of gaining Ma’s favor. Back I came, bouquet in hand, and she took the flowers without saying a word and into the jam jar they went. Dad came in a few minutes later, took one look and asked, “Where did you get those Stinkin’ Benjamins?” Well, had I bent my head a little more, I would have noticed the awful smell, but the color was so pretty I figured that was all that mattered!

About this time, Gram Martin’s lilacs opened and hung over the ditch by the side of the road. Oh, the perfume in the air when we walked by. We did not touch her lilac bush , simply because it belonged to Gram and we had never asked permission. That, however, did not stop a summer resident who left with an armful one late spring day and my Gram  sputtering on the porch just about as loud as I had ever heard her!! She thought that was pretty “nervy” but had that person asked, Gram would probably helped fill her arms full. It was a matter of principle!!

Time for Uncle Louis to ready his row boat for the season. It sat upside down on blocks during the winter months and now one could hear as he scraped…scraped..scraped the old paint off and applied new green paint for the season. When it was absolutely, perfectly, pristine in his eyes, the boat was launched.  He shared it with Dad in their fishing pursuits and it was duly noted that the boat was as clean when it was brought back to shore as it was when it left.

Usually one day in spring, my Uncle Louis would bring a sack of things to be thrown on “our dump.”  Back then, most houses had their own dump set back in the woods away from the main house and there the tin cans went and other throw aways. I knew that Gram did not have a dump but marveled at Uncle Louis having just one sack of things each year to be tossed!

Spring was a magic time . We played out later at night..marbles in the ditch by the road, jumping rope with a piece of Ma’s left over clothes line, rolling tires on the tarred road. We were always tired enough to sleep once Ma called from the doorway.

Best of all, Rex and I hooked up the old Philco and many an afternoon, sat on the doorsteps and marveled as Curt Gowdy described another Red Sox game. Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and all the other greats. That was the beginning of my love for baseball which has never left.

I miss it all …well, let’s be honest. I don’t miss the old outhouse at the edge of the woods. The best part was that in the spring, there was no path to shovel to get to it.

Memories. Another box opened this morning.

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